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Tue, 23 May 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Many psychology studies fail the replication test

© Devonyu/iStockphoto
Scientific studies about how people act or think can rarely be replicated by outside experts, according to a new study that raises questions about the seriousness of psychology research.

A team of 270 scientists tried reproducing 100 psychology and social science studies that had been published in three top peer-reviewed US journals in 2008.

Just 39 per cent came out with same results as the initial reports, according an international team of researchers known as The Open Science Collaboration.

Their findings are reported in the journal Science .

The topics of studies reviewed ranged from people's social lives and interactions with others to research involving perception, attention and memory.

No medical therapies were called into question as a result of the study, although a separate effort is underway to evaluate cancer biology studies.

"It's important to note that this somewhat disappointing outcome does not speak directly to the validity or the falsity of the theories," says Gilbert Chin, a psychologist and senior editor at the journal Science.

"What it does say is that we should be less confident about many of the original experimental results," says Chin, who was not involved in the study.

Study co-author Brian Nosek from the University of Virginia says the research shows the need for scientists to continually question themselves.

"A scientific claim doesn't become believable because of the status or authority of the person that generated it," says Nosek.

"Credibility of the claim depends in part on the repeatability of its supporting evidence."


Over-entertained, under-educated, and distracted: Today's children suffer from a lack of mental nutrition

It is easy to statistically measure the effects of bad nutritional consumption, knowing one out of three children in the U.S. are considered overweight or obese. But how do we calculate the effects of an unhealthy diet of the mind? How do we measure mental nutrition?

Today it is very popular for people to focus on the importance of what children eat and how nutrition is important for the proper development of their bodies. The effects of junk food are substantial in a child's life. Yet not enough attention is directed toward what is being fed to the minds of our youth. Meaningless entertainment, instead of judicious messages, dominates today. A constant barrage of nonsense influences children. The media resorts to cartoons that portray vomit as entertainment, books with intentionally poor grammar about an underwear-wearing super hero, and repugnant stories about a farting dog, highlighting and celebrating stupidity and meaningless trivia that hold absolutely no importance in life.

This is what many refer to as "Mind Garbage." An immature ploy of "potty humor" seems to have replaced witty humor. Junk food for the mind is unquestionably accepted and often used as a distraction for children because of parents' busy and stressful lives. Bored and unmotivated children tend to desire entertainment over engagement in learning. In today's Age of Information true knowledge is scarce, and children are overwhelmed with foolish stories based on mindless material with little or no value.

Comment: Garbage in, garbage out. Be careful of what you put into your brain.

The dumbing down of America - By design

Heart - Black

Analyzing the 7 Stages of Grief amidst 2015's doom and gloom events and beyond

With US Empire a possible culprit behind the massive Tianjin explosions, the ongoing currency and cyber wars with China are now escalating to potential military war. China or Russia's potent electromagnetic pulse weapons could destroy America's electrical power grid making our nation an increasingly vulnerable target. Even an ISIS invasion with its US gifted missiles (while fighting as US mercenaries against Assad's Syrian forces) could take out the power grid. In an instant this could end life as we know it in America, killing 90% of US citizens within the short time of just one year. A buildup of Russian troop movement along the Eastern Ukraine border in response to the US-NATO-mercenary-Nazi coalition is presently converging with Kiev forces moving eastward for what could become an epic military showdown with both the Russian rebels alongside the Russia army.

South and North Korean military forces just exchanged artillery fire during the latest annual US-South Korean war games joined by over a half dozen other Western nations after North Korea threatened to attack mainland US should joint exercises go forward. Are all these near daily developments and confrontations bringing the already simmering East-West tensions to boil over into all-out war in Asia? As ISIS just blew up Syria's ancient Roman temple in Palmyra, its control only seems to be spreading in Syria and Iraq. The Islamic State scourge is rapidly expanding its US created and supported savagery into Ukraine, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and deeper into sub-Saharan Africa in partnership with Boko Harem and al-Shabaab. It appears that world conflict between the US-led West in methodic acceleration of aggression to isolate Russia and China now have the entire planet on the brink of nuclear world war.

Comment: The tools of personal integration: including prayer and meditation can be extremely useful now, and in the times to come. Humanity is being assaulted, affronted, and attacked from ALL sides and the big bad things just keep on coming. Though we cannot necessarily change what's to come - even with prayer - it is possible to employ knowledge of this time we're living in towards a greater awareness of our inner states of being -and unite with individuals who are doing the same. We can work to clear our cognitive biases enough to see things as objectively as possible, and learn to translate information about our Reality towards practical purposes that will help forge a constructive path to the future.

For more on this see:

Secret History of the World and How to get out Alive as well as

Earth Changes and the Human Cosmic Connection: The Secret History of the World - Book 3


Brain turns words into complex thoughts like a computer

© woseogjeber/iStockphoto
The human brain creates complex thoughts by flexibly combining the meanings of individual words.
Pink elephants serenading the world's tallest woman might be an improbable situation, but our brain is able to comprehend this thought.

Humans can generate an infinite set of ideas from a finite set of words, but how the brain accomplishes this feat remains unclear.

Now, a new study by US scientists suggests the human mind flexibly combines the meanings of individual words to compose structured thoughts.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today, they reveal our brain works like a computer in processing meaning and identify key regions where this takes place.

"Given the vast number of sentences we can understand and produce, it would be implausible for the brain to allocate individual neurons to represent each possible sentence meaning," writes first author graduate student Steven Frankland.

"Instead, it is likely that the brain employs a system for flexibly combining representations of simpler meanings to compose more complex meanings."

Co-author for the study Frankland and Professor Joshua Greene, both in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, devised two experiments to identify regions in the brain that encode for meaning where the structure of the sentence is critical; and then how the brain represents this meaning.

In the first experiment, 18 participants undergoing a functional MRI scan read simple sentences that could be conveyed in either the active or passive voice.

These sentences could also be arranged to have mirror meanings: "the dog bit the man" or "the man bit the dog".

Through this they were able to identify that the left mid-superior temporal cortex in the brain plays a key role in decoding of sentence meaning and predicting the required response based on this information.


Having a strong social network could be effective in treating depression

How both happiness and depression spread through social networks.
Depression does not spread between friends, a new study finds.

Indeed, friends can provide a protective effect against depression.

Professor Frances Griffiths, one of the study's authors, said:
"Depression is a major public health concern worldwide.

But the good news is we've found that a healthy mood amongst friends is linked with a significantly reduced risk of developing and increased chance of recovering from depression.

Our results offer implications for improving adolescent mood.

In particular they suggest the hypothesis that encouraging friendship networks between adolescents could reduce both the incidence and prevalence of depression among teenagers."

Comment: This underscores the importance of meaningful connections with family and friends. Not only is social isolation a risk factor for depression, but has also been linked to addiction.


How traumatic unconscious memories are stored in the brain and how to access them

© Massachusetts General Hospital and Draper Labs
Special brain mechanism discovered to store stress-related, unconscious memories

Some stressful experiences - such as chronic childhood abuse - are so overwhelming and traumatic, the memories hide like a shadow in the brain.

At first, hidden memories that can't be consciously accessed may protect the individual from the emotional pain of recalling the event. But eventually those suppressed memories can cause debilitating psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or dissociative disorders.

Comment: Emotions and stress also play a critical role in the development of many diseases.

Dr. Gabor Maté: "When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection"

A process known as state-dependent learning is believed to contribute to the formation of memories that are inaccessible to normal consciousness. Thus, memories formed in a particular mood, arousal or drug-induced state can best be retrieved when the brain is back in that state.

In a new study with mice, Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time the mechanism by which state-dependent learning renders stressful fear-related memories consciously inaccessible.

"The findings show there are multiple pathways to storage of fear-inducing memories, and we identified an important one for fear-related memories," said principal investigator Dr. Jelena Radulovic, the Dunbar Professor in Bipolar Disease at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "This could eventually lead to new treatments for patients with psychiatric disorders for whom conscious access to their traumatic memories is needed if they are to recover."

It's difficult for therapists to help these patients, Radulovic said, because the patients themselves can't remember their traumatic experiences that are the root cause of their symptoms.

Comment: The Éiriú Eolas breathing and mediation program is a proven technique that will help you to deal with stress and heal past emotional and psychological trauma. You can try it for free here.

See also:


Taking addiction to the mat

How mind-body practices can effectively help address substance misuse.

The addiction and mental health treatment communities have always regarded practices such as meditation, yoga and other mind-body practices as useful adjuncts to treatment. But more and more evidence continues to accumulate suggesting that these modalities are actually extremely powerful therapeutic modalities on their own. For some people, regular engagement in mind-body practices can be a foundational part of a recovery plan. Dr. Jenifer Talley, a clinical psychologist and an expert in the integration of mind-body techniques in addict treatment, spells it out and describes her work with a client...Richard Juman

When we consider the factors that contribute to problematic substance use and other risky behaviors, several themes emerge. Most notably, there is a tendency to avoid experiencing discomfort through dissociation and disconnecting from one's body during times of distress. I commonly hear clients say they use substances to alter how they are feeling and to quiet the endless stream of self-critical thoughts. Some are seeking an experience of euphoria, while others aim for relaxation or to attain a state of being numb. Implicitly, there is a lack of acceptance of what is occurring in the moment and a strong desire to alter one's state. Many struggle with allowing emotions to run their course and seek an immediate form of relief. I often say that we have to "roll out the welcome mat" to all our experiences, as avoidance and reacting with aversion only prolong our discomfort and make us more susceptible to substance misuse.

Comment: Why Yoga? Healing research:


Study: Learning can rewire the brain's reward system against drug dependence

© Emily Strange/UC Berkeley News
A new study challenges the idea that addiction might be hardwired in our brains

Challenging the idea that addiction is hardwired in the brain, a new UC Berkeley study of mice suggests that even a short time spent in a stimulating learning environment can rewire the brain's reward system and buffer it against drug dependence.

Scientists tracked cocaine cravings in more than 70 adult male mice and found that those rodents whose daily drill included exploration, learning, and finding hidden tasty morsels were less likely than their enrichment-deprived counterparts to seek solace in a chamber where they had been given cocaine.

"We have compelling behavioral evidence that self-directed exploration and learning altered their reward systems so that when cocaine was experienced it made less of an impact on their brain," said Linda Wilbrecht, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley and senior author of the paper just published in the journal, Neuropharmacology.

By contrast, mice who were not intellectually challenged and/or whose activities and diets were restricted, were eager to return to the quarters where they had been injected with cocaine for weeks on end.

"We know that mice living in deprived conditions show higher levels of drug-seeking behavior than those living in stimulating environments, and we sought to develop a brief intervention that would promote resilience in the deprived animals," said study lead author Josiah Boivin, a Ph.D. student in neuroscience at UC San Francisco who conducted the research at UC Berkeley as part of his thesis work.

Drug abuse and addiction rank among the world's more costly, destructive and seemingly insurmountable problems. Previous studies have found that poverty, trauma, mental illness and other environmental and physiological stressors can alter the brain's reward circuitry and make us more susceptible to substance abuse.

The good news about this latest study is that it offers scalable interventions against drug-seeking behaviors, albeit through evidence based on animal behavior.

Comment: See also: Addiction rooted more in social isolation than chemical dependency


Scientist discovers wake-sleep mechanism

New York: An Indian-American scientist at Northwestern University in the US state of Illinois has found that a simple two-cycle mechanism controls waking-up and going-to-sleep process in animals during a 24-hour day.

Ravi Allada, circadian rhythms expert, recently discovered how an animal's biological clock wakes it up in the morning and puts it to sleep at night. A simple two-cycle mechanism turns key brain neurons on or off during a 24-hour day.

The clock's mechanism is much like a light switch, as per the findings published in the journal Cell on Thursday.

In a study of brain circadian neurons that govern the daily sleep-wake cycle's timing, Mr Allada and his research team found that high sodium channel activity in these neurons during the day turn the cells on and ultimately awaken an animal, and high potassium channel activity at night turn them off, allowing the animal to sleep.

Investigating further, the researchers were surprised to discover the same sleep-wake switch in both flies and mice.

"This suggests the underlying mechanism controlling our sleep-wake cycle is ancient," Mr Allada was quoted as saying Northwestern University as saying.


Research confirms links between violent video games and increased aggression, decreased prosocial behavior

Violent video game play is linked to increased aggression in players but insufficient evidence exists about whether the link extends to criminal violence or delinquency, according to a new American Psychological Association task force report.

"The research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behavior, aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect, and decreases in prosocial behavior, empathy and sensitivity to aggression," says the report of the APA Task Force on Violent Media. The task force's review is the first in this field to examine the breadth of studies included and to undertake multiple approaches to reviewing the literature.

"Scientists have investigated the use of violent video games for more than two decades but to date, there is very limited research addressing whether violent video games cause people to commit acts of criminal violence," said Mark Appelbaum, PhD, task force chair. "However, the link between violence in video games and increased aggression in players is one of the most studied and best established in the field."

"No single risk factor consistently leads a person to act aggressively or violently," the report states. "Rather, it is the accumulation of risk factors that tends to lead to aggressive or violent behavior. The research reviewed here demonstrates that violent video game use is one such risk factor."

Comment: It could be said that the norms of a society can be mirrored in its choices and forms of entertainment. When it comes to violence and preparations for violence, the U.S. was at the top of the list in 2013, according to according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. This is the natural result of any society that is saturated with psychopaths at the top, whose control ultimately permeates the entire culture with ideas that have been adjusted, perverted, corrupted and even radically transformed into environments that greatly favour their ways and tactics.